Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Gen X Chronicles: Part Eight - Tiananmen Square and The Unknown Rebel

Among the exhibits at the Reagan Museum, there is an exhibit on The Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989.  It is in the area of the museum that is about heroism. 

Gen Xers and almost anyone around in the 20th century remembers seeing images and footage of  the violence at Tiananmen Square on the news as it was happening.  3,000 students on a hunger strike for reform turned into a million protesters in and around the Square.  The footage below of The Unknown Rebel, a nameless man chose to stand his ground after the Chinese government forcibly removed protesters in and around the Square. This brave young man, most likely a Gen Xer, refused to yield to a long line of government army tanks.  He eventually came to symbolize all that happened during the Protests. 

The Unknown Rebel, also known as Tank Man is holding two shopping bags as he makes his statement. It seems as if he could've been running a mundane errand and then all the sudden he decided to do this - to change history

One of the most powerful demonstrations that can take place on this planet is a non-violent protest - there is something so...morally profound about it.

What if every human being is called to be a prophet in some way in their lifetime?  There are different ways to define a prophet, but one way is this: someone who stands against injustice, and who brings to light what is morally profound.  What if every human is at the very least supposed to have one monumental moment of time in which you are supposed to step forward - either with your words or your actions?  Maybe that moment will come in the most unexpected situation.  Maybe you'll be going through the motions of life on a regular day -  like coming home from the grocery store -  and an opportunity to do something extraordinary will lay before you.  Your profound moral moment may change another person's life, or your life, or the world

Part of the issue of living out a prophetic moment is that you must consider the cost.  Sometimes it comes freely, but more often it doesn't come cheap.  Standing up for your rights or someone else's at work can mean a job loss for one person, standing up to some other power in your community may cause the very loss of your community, or worse.  Sometimes, it isn't your moment because you are in a place of  just trying to survive - you are not in a place to rock the boat, but in a place where you are just trying to keep floating.  I've been there.  However, when your  monumental moment comes, you may find yourself in a situation when you are strong enough and able enough and ready enough to handle the cost of standing up to someone.  When you do, I hope that you speak truth with all clarity or that your actions bring those listening to their knees. 

The Unknown Rebel is considered to be one of the most important people of the 20th century according to Time Magazine.  Life Magazine put this is on its list of the top 100 images that changed the world and stated that a second hero emerged as the driver of the tank refused to crush the man, and instead chose to drive his killing machine around him.  Of the billions of images I have been exposed to through media throughout my Gen X existence, this is one of the most profound.  I am overwhelmed with hope every time I see it. 

There is no clear answer as to who this man is or what became of him.

Gen Xers watched Beijing on the news in horror of what kind of a world we were growing up in.   Many suffered from, or lost their lives as a result of the violence of June 1989.  It took many of us on the other side of the world years to really process, as we were going through so many crises of our own.  Through all of Gen X's lifespan, the world was (and continues to be) in a Crisis era according to historians and others. I will venture to say that in the moments of this video, the Crisis of our world became temporarily suspended.  I would venture to say that grace became suspended in the universe when the driver of the tank chose non-violence as he tried to go around the Unknown Rebel, and as the Unknown Rebel used non-violent action to make his point.  This image - this man standing in front of a tank - is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century and one of the most intense images ingraved in the psyche of Gen Xers around the world.  

Like the Tao, the "eternally nameless" concept found in Chinese philosophy and various Eastern religions, this nameless man in his own morally profound moment showed us something extraordinary and shifted our universe.  Generation X in China is sometimes referred to as "a nameless generation."

The concept of "effortless action" associated with the Tao can take place when a person easily does what they are called to do in a particular moment of time.  You can get to a place where something you believe strongly about becomes so intense within you, that it seems necessary and even effortless to act upon it.  Because of the Unknown Rebel's message, we have never forgotten him.

(c) 2013 by Chloe - all rights reserved

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